by Beth Peltola
‘How can God become a man?’ said my good-humoured and confident Islamic challenger. An excellent question and one I’ve been asked almost every time I’ve conversed with a Muslim missionary in London. Further along in the conversation he cried, ‘God is one!’ Another statement, oft repeated, right from the heart of Islamic theology.
These key challenges to the Christian faith stand as an obvious challenge to the Holy Trinity and Jesus. The Qur’an makes this clear in its edicts; ‘say not three…God is only one God’ (Qur’an 4:171). Isa, a fellow whom Muslims put in the place of Jesus, also seems preoccupied in convincing us that he is no god (Qur’an 5:72).
Truth be told, as a 20-year-old, I struggled to answer questions about the Trinity. I was still learning to communicate the Christian faith with Muslim communities in the diaspora. I searched for books and resources that would provide the theology needed to respond to the queries of Muslims about the Trinity, the divinity of our Lord Jesus and the reliability of the Bible. The latter had many helpful resources but why was there such a void of Christian writing on the Trinity in resources for Muslim minds and those witnessing to them? There were some helpful booklets on core Islamic and Christian teaching, and biblical authority, but little on answering the questions our Muslim friends ask about Jesus and the Trinity.
Jesus at the Centre of Mission
Early on in my mission life in London, a local church leader had been engaging with Muslims around the city. It prompted him and his team to nosedive into the Scriptures, especially the Old Testament; a favourite part of the Bible Muslims love to challenge – that and Paul’s writings. He was struck afresh how Muslims, and sometimes Christians, painted the God of the Old Testament like Allah, as if He was a different God to the Trinity of the New Testament. Most Christians are uncomfortable hearing anyone preach a different gospel between the two books. We know that the New Testament testifies to the power of the gospel in the Old Testament (2 Tim. 3:15) and Jesus tells us that the Old Testament is about Him (Lk. 24:44-45). This is an emphasis I focus on when speaking with Muslim friends on the matter.
I was struck by how Muslims thought Jesus had only existed these past 2,000 years. It can be quite an eye-opener to speak of our Lord Jesus Christ creating, working, appearing and living with us, long before He was born! That wonderful verse, ‘Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation’ (Col. 1:15), provides such clarity on the matter. In it we are told how the Lord Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God. When our team grasped the significance of this truth, the foundations for exciting and easier gospel conversations with Muslims were laid. When we truly believed the Lord’s testimony of how He led His people out of slavery, fought for them and led them in person (Ex. 14:13-17; Deut. 7:6-8) and included it as part of our gospel communication among Muslims, those conversations came alive. The responses were passionate and helpful for understanding the differences between the Islamic and biblical God. For the Christian, God is active, seen, involved and physical – God is real. Allah, by contrast, is more abstract, an entity unseen, unknown. Allah is not a person, or persons, such as the Trinity. These differences make for wonderful conversations with Muslims.
Yet, are there available any teaching, resources, books, videos and podcasts that inform us, and Muslims, to keep these core aspects of who God is and is not, at the centre of our conversations? In the wealth of missional writing, can we find books explaining how to find the gospel through the testimonies of the prophets? Yes, there are a few resources using the biblical prophets, whose names, not lives, are shared by both Muslims and Christians. But is Jesus at the centre of those stories? Is the gospel? Do those books read more like Islam, or do they start with a biblical foundation? Perhaps the answer is a mixture.
Room for a Resourcing Mission
Despite a few books, and good Christian missions working among Muslims, there is still a great need for a Christian educational and resourcing organisation, which focuses on equipping Christians in a clear biblical response to Islam.
After many of my American colleagues moved back to the USA, some of whom still work in missions, and with whom my colleagues and I continue to network, the time had come to start a new organisation: one which is built on the strengths of the previous but broader in its focus and audience, our tag line being – a biblical response to Islam.
The responses were passionate and helpful for understanding the differences between the Islamic and biblical God.
What does the Bible say about Islam? What does God say? Well, much is said! Christians were asking us for resources to dig deeper into this. Two areas of interest were emerging from the responses of students taking our online courses. We found people continued to be interested in an historical critique of Islam, but many wanted a clearer trinitarian, Jesus-centred engagement of Islam. Twenty-five years ago we knew little about the historical critique of Islam; today it is a field of study that is going from strength to strength. Yet an area of less understanding is how to respond to Islam through the eyes of our Heavenly Father, Our Saviour Jesus and the Holy Spirit. This isn’t overly difficult to do because they’ve given the Bible to us.
The Bible tells us how to respond to ideologies such as Islam. We need many more resources in this field of study, teaching Jesus through both Old and New Testaments, highlighting the Books of Moses as a great foundation for Trinitarian theology and Jesus at its centre. My own need for resources in this area fuelled our prayers to the Lord for a focused new ministry to help our witness among Muslims and bless the worldwide church in evangelism aids, which start with Jesus, the Old Testament and the Trinity, rather than with Islam, cultural needs and advice. The latter two are still needed and well covered in multiple missions.
The Launch of the One Truth Project
The Lord prompted us to start the One Truth Project. The name is intentional. It arose at a time when the current trend of society was to find your own individual ‘truth’, yet every Christian through every age of trends and passing whims, has had to learn to hold tight to that one Truth – the Lord Jesus. The subject of another tag line we often use in written resources, ‘the truth shall make you free’ (Jn 8:32).
One Truth Project primarily focuses on developing online resources, providing consultations for churches and evangelism groups, teaching on Islam via multiple platforms, running Bible tours in the British Museum and writing books. The latter will be a focus of mine in the year ahead, alongside museum tours and Q&A panels. At the end of August 2022, Questions to Ask Your Muslim Friends was published – a book I wished I had when I first began (see link at bottom of page). More books are being written, including, Suffering in Islam and Christianity, a comparison between the suffering of the Trinity compared to the aloof life of Allah.
It is thrilling to be involved in this educational side of mission and a joy to see Christians around the world emboldened in clear communication of the Christian faith, especially among Muslims.
We praise God: for the teams and churches with whom we enjoy fellowship as they access our courses and join our live Q&A panels; for the helpful input of our network of lecturers, theologians, historians and missionaries, who are faithful to and supportive of One Truth; and for reports from those completing our courses, who say their conversations with Muslim friends have now deepened significantly towards gospel topics.
- for the Lord’s provision of a new committed team member to run our courses, edit videos, and interact with our students and growing network
- that our resources will honour the Lord God, empower Christians towards confident witness, and point Muslims towards trusting Jesus as God and Saviour.